Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I would probably not have read this book had it not been passed along to me by my sister, who does not share bad books. The title smacks of the kind of ladies lit that does not generally appeal to me, and frankly, it had gotten a little too much perfect-for-your-book-club press. Fortunately, I found myself with nothing to read several days ago, and decided to try it. It is popular with good reason, a sweet, funny book with a nice amount of historical tragedy. I was so charmed that for once I was gunning for a happy ending, which is very rare for me.

In short, a writer in London starts a correspondence with the members of literary group on one of the Channel Islands. It is 1946, everyone is still traumatized from the war, and the author, Juliet, is just learning of the German Occupation of Guernsey. It's an interesting little chunk of history; most of us didn't know that any of England was occupied.

I was always a big fan of the show Northern Exposure, and this is kind of the post-war British version. The cast of characters are unlikely allies, and altogether more fun than people in real life. Who wouldn't want to live in beautiful Guernsey with plucky, supportive friends who chat about books and have endless casual dinner parties?

I like epistolary novels, and for the most part the format works for this story. It seems a little forced by the end, with the main character doing an awful lot of writing without garnering very many responses. Juliet is funny, and witty, and self-deprecating; in short, a sympathetic narrator who adores her subjects. Much has been made of the author, who did not live to see the enormous sucees of her only novel. I was surprised to learn that she was American; this book seems so perfectly British. All in all a really fun read.


  1. Isn't the title awful. I avoided this one because of it, then finally read it and really liked it. It's a sweet book with some great characters.

  2. I am often guilty of choosing, or choosing not to read, books because of their titles. I also have an unfair bias against books targeted for book clubs.

  3. I loved this book and the title didn't put me off- although I can never remember the whole of it. The back story of how Mary Ann Shaffer's niece did the final editing/revisions after Mary Ann died also was on interest. I'm sorry this is her only book!